10 Things Guys Should Know When Traveling to College Station, Home of Texas A&M
1. I’m sure College Station was a great football destination when Texas A&M was prominent in football back in the 90s, but it tailed off in this century when the program did as well. There was a point only a few years ago when crowds were small enough that the school was considering shrinking Kyle Field. It's only the addition of Johnny Football and switching conferences to the SEC that has breathed life into the program once again. Now the nation's largest student section (it’s called the 12th man for a reason) is back in full force and the school plans to increase the stadium's capacity by approximately 20,000 to the largest in the SEC and third largest in the country. The town itself is rather small and doesn't offer much more for you than the school and Northgate, a string of bars on the street just north of campus, but football and alcohol is mostly all you want out of a football weekend. The girls are sadly just above average for SEC territory (somewhat surprising because close-by Austin blows it away in that respect), but you can always find a few needles in the haystack.
2. Texas A&M plays in the SEC West division, which means they'll have a good home game every year against either LSU or Alabama since division opponents alternate home games every year. Those weekends would be the best to attend with Ole Miss being the runner-up. (Unfortunately the chances are Ole Miss' attractive fan base wouldn't make the trip to College Station.) Right now the SEC is sticking with the “6-1-1” schedule system, so Texas A&M will continue to play Missouri every year in its “rivalry” game. Missouri’s not exactly top competition, so you’ll probably want to pass there. Maybe at some point A&M will add some quality non-conference home games, but nothing’s scheduled yet.
3. Be prepared to sweat if you go to a game during September. Temperatures could get up to the high 90s. (They were that high this past weekend during the Alabama game for example.) You can get through it though if you have to. Things are still pretty warm in October and November, so you should still be able to rock t-shirts and shorts either way. Tickets for games are generally on the expensive side because of the large student section and alumni being forced to donate large sums of money to get season tickets in the other areas. This might change slightly when the stadium expansion increases the capacity, but there's a reason the Alabama game was the most expensive regular season college football ticket of all-time. You'll want to sit in the seats on the west side of the stadium to avoid the heat as the sun will move far enough to put that side in the shade during some point of the mid- afternoon.
4. Housing in College Station is not an easy situation Most of the hotels in College Station require some form of transport to get around and can get pricey. Even the closest ones are over a mile from campus. Places like the Hilton charged upwards of $500 per night for rooms this past weekend for the Alabama game, but at least they offer a free shuttle that can take you to the bars and bring you home. It’s definitely a major plus, but remember to tip your drive so he doesn’t leave you hanging when you call later. You can slum it at places like the Knights Inn for $200 a night, where you'll at least get two queen beds, a pullout couch, and strong air conditioning. Renting houses isn’t as easy as other places. They’re really expensive for game days and there’s only so many options available. This is why a lot of fans stay in either Austin or Houston (both are two hours or less away) and commute in for the games. You have to just suck it up at a cheap hotel to maximize the experience.
5. The best place to tailgate without a reserved permit is in Spence Park, just east of Kyle Field. The park opens at 12 p.m.on the Friday before a game, but you can still show up later that day and get a good location. Throw down your tent, chairs, and table to lock down your area and return to do work on Saturday. (That tent is key given the temperature. A water mister for the tent wouldn't hurt either.) It's a little less tech heavy with less TVs and satellite dishes than you'll see at other tailgates, but the people around you are just as friendly. If you're too lazy to set up your own stuff, the gents at TailgateGuys.com can provide you with a full package including tents, chairs, table, food, and booze. The other public option is park near Reed Arena. The fraternities set up tailgates just west of Spence Park in Duncan Field. If you're driving your stuff over from one of the hotels, your best bet to park is south of George Bush Drive where everyone can chip in on the likely $40 charge to park on someone's yard.
6. You've probably heard of the Midnight Yell tradition. If not, the quick summary is that Aggie fans head to Kyle Field to have a pep rally of sorts at midnight on the day before the game. (For however technical you want to be, it's the night between Friday and Saturday when the game is on Saturday.) It's mostly a younger crowd of those not old enough to get into the Northgate bars plus the super intense alumni who are back for the weekend to support their team. Songs are sang, people get excited, but in reality you’re just taking 1.5 hours away from your night at the bars.
7. There are a couple well known food spots in the area. Layne’s Chicken Fingers runs a very simple menu, but it’s always busy. You’re most likely gonna get the Chicken Fingers plate that comes with fries, Texas toast, and potato salad. (Swap out that potato salad for another piece of that fine Texas toast.) The secret sauce is mayo, ketchup, and a bunch of pepper if you’re curious, but it tastes damn good. Travel out to the Hullabaloo Diner if you’ve got a car. It’s about 10-15 minutes from campus and it’s been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. You might question why you’d want to eat a cheesesteak in Texas, but the owner is from Texas and he knows what he’s doing. The Roman Sausage sandwich isn’t bad either. Freebirds Burritos is a chain local to mostly California and Texas, but they put together a pretty decent burrito. Good luck to you if you decide to take on the Super Monster size because the Freebird size is big enough. Raspas El Payasito has some great Mexican food, but it’s in a bit of a dicey area. Along the same lines, the Tex Mex at Chuy’s isn’t bad either.
8. Chicken Oil Company, in neighboring Bryan, has a well-rounded comfort food menu, but everyone seems to side with the burgers. You can also get some good burgers at Koppe Bridge, but it’s a bit south of campus. If you’re looking for something fun, grab a spiked bourbon caramel milkshake with your burger at Grub Burger Bar. There’s a bunch of places for barbecue, but there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus between C&J (in Bryan), J Cody’s (also in Bryan), and Rudy’s. Rudy’s is a chain, but you’ll leave satisfied if you get the brisket or pulled pork. There’s a bunch of different Wings N More locations around town as it’s the go-to spot for wings. Your opportunities for late-night food are somewhat limited. The line goes out the door for pizza at Antonio’s. Otherwise you’re grabbing Pita Pit or Dominos if you’re coming out of the bars in Northgate.
9. As mentioned earlier, the main area of bars is just north of campus in the area called Northgate. The stalwart of the area is Dixie Chicken. (Yes it’s got food too, but we’re focusing on it as a bar.) It’s a bar that alumni love to drop by when they’re in town for the weekend. It’s a simple place that symbolizes the area, so figure out what kind of beer you want and enjoy the atmosphere. When you’re ready to move on to something a little more engaging and alcoholically influence, you can head next door to the Dry Bean. It’s a place that is solely for shot taking, but there’s plenty of things to take shots of. Down the street, the scene at Corner Bar is a pretty busy one, with three floors full of action. The biggest downside is the bar situation on the roof, where you can sometimes wait way too long for a drink.
10. O’Bannon’s tap house has the widest beer selection in the area with about 75 choices on tap. Logans on Campus had the biggest line of any place I saw when I was there. It has a small outside area, but the newly remodeled inside was busy as well. You have a few options if you’re looking for a dancing scene. Social Lounge opened in the space that was formerly called B Mo’s and pumps hip-house and house music through the night. Gatsby’s across the street offers the same vibe, but doesn’t seem to be a local favorite. If you’re looking for more of a country music scene, Hurricane Harry’s can get you that. Daisy Duke’s gives you two floors of something similar. There are also places like Halo and Murphy’s Law in nearby Bryan, but most people you talk to will tell you to stay in College Station.